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Cosmetic ear surgery


Cosmetic ear surgery is a procedure to move very large or prominent ears closer to the head.

Alternative Names

Otoplasty; Ear surgery - cosmetic


Cosmetic ear surgery may be done in the surgeon's office, an outpatient clinic, or a hospital. It can be performed under local anesthesia, which numbs the area around the ears, or general anesthesia, which will cause you to sleep through the entire operation. The procedure usually lasts about 2 hours.

During the most common method of cosmetic ear surgery, a surgeon makes a cut in the back of the ear and removes the skin to see the ear cartilage. The cartilage is folded to reshape the ear, bringing it closer to the head. Sometimes the surgeon will cut the cartilage before folding it. Stitches are used to close the wound.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

The procedure can be done after a child reaches age 5 or 6, when ear growth is almost finished. However, if the ears are very disfigured (lop ears), the child should have surgery early to avoid possible emotional stress at school.


Complications such as blood clots and infection are uncommon.

Other risks of the procedure include:

  • Keloids and hypertrophic scars
  • Areas of numbness
  • Increased susceptibility to cold
  • Unsatisfactory results

After the Procedure

The ears are covered with a bulky bandage after surgery. Any tenderness and discomfort can easily be controlled with medication. If the surgery is done in a hospital, the child should go home the same day or the next day.

The ear bandages are removed after 2 - 4 days, but the child will need to wear a light head wrap for 2 - 3 weeks to promote healing. The decision of when to return to school and normal activities depends on how fast the child heals.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Scars are very light and located in the creases behind the ears.

The child might need a second operation if the ear occasionally sticks out again.


Adamson PA, Doud Galli SK. Otoplasty. In: Cummings CS, Flint PW, Haughey BH, Robbins KT, Thomas JR. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo:Mosby;2005:chap 36.

Complications of Otoplasty. In: Eisele DW, Smith R, eds. Complications in Head and Neck Surgery. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 59.

Review Date: 10/15/2009
Reviewed By: David A. Lickstein, MD, FACS, specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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